Essays on People's Platelist Finalists

His set menu and evening specials are always outstanding and consistently delicious. His wait staff is pleasant and knowledgeable about the execution and ingredients of every dish. Our favorite dish is Mussels in Black Bean Sauce with a close second of his Grouper tempura in Lemon Mushroom Sauce. Yum… Yum... The dishes are generous and very reasonably priced considering the quality of the dishes. We hope that Eddie's followers will nominate him for Myrtle Beach Top Chef!!!

MONICA MAY, Nickel Diner, Los Angeles, CA

Monica May at Nickel Diner in downtown Los Angeles is a creative genius. Nestled in the heart of skid row service providers, the diner is always busy. The desserts are original, made from scratch. The chocolate cake has a middle icing layer that contains peanut butter and potato chips! Unbelievably good. The Cilantro Lime Salmon salad introduced me to jicama and the salmon has pleased every picky eater I've brought to the place. Monica's business partner is Kristen Tratten who has created the ambiance of a bygone era. On their website, you can see it: Please take a look.

RON McFARLAIN, Ron's Cajun Connection, Utica, IL

My husband and I discovered this gem of a restaurant on a rainy trip to Starved Rock State Park in Northern Illinois. As we were leaving the park in the late afternoon on a Sunday, we were looking for a place to eat a late lunch. We had passed a few fast food places and local taverns in town, but out of town, on a desolate stretch of highway, we spotted Ron's Cajun Connection. The parking lot was packed. When we walked through the door we knew we had found a great place to eat and enjoy the atmosphere and food. The setting is an old farmhouse, which has not been changed in room layout since it was built decades ago. The space is tight and you get to know the folks around you real quick. The waitresses are bubbly, outgoing gals that know their Cajun menu because they are back in the kitchen helping Ron prepare his amazing dishes every day. We ordered and enjoyed waiting for our food while Ron came out and mingled with his patrons. He is full of life, loves his Cajun food, loves to tell you how to eat it, and even how he prepares it, if you ask. If you ask where he is from he will tell you all about Lake Charles, Louisiana, his hometown. He makes the eatery the place it is, along with his delicious, authentic Cajun specialties. The first time we went I had his special of the day which was barbecued ribs with shrimp etouffee and gumbo. The ribs were the best I have ever had. Tender, flavorful, and fall off the bone tender. The gumbo was delicious and the etouffee great. He has limited hours and yet each time, because we have been back several times, there is a line extending well beyond the door to get in. People come from miles away (we live over an hour away) to eat here. Most of his customers are people who have experienced Ron's and are coming back for more, but there are also a good amount of new customers that have heard how wonderful this place is and are willing to drive awhile to wait in line to get in to try this Southern cooking chef with his gift of getting you to feel as if you are all a big family eating together in the bayou of Lake Charles, Louisiana.

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